For some reason, one of the first expressions I learnt in Japanese was “Tadaima”, that people say when they arrive home, meaning something like “It’s me, I have arrived” and the usual warm reply “Okaeri”, that the family say to welcome the person back home.
As a modern life nomad, and being very practical about learning languages, I thought I wouldn’t be in a situation where I would be saying that in Japanese.
But then I kept on hearing the expression everywhere, and I started liking it. And looking forward the moment I could use it.
When I last visited Japan, I wrote Tadaima to a couple of friends, and both replied with a warm “Okaeri”. And I experienced the nice feeling of the magic word.
But that was just an illusion. Coming back home to Hong Kong last week, after some time away, the only welcome I had was the smell of humidity, dust and void in my empty apartment. I didn’t dare to say Tadaima this time, as there was no one home to listen.
Being a professional nomad has a number of advantages, but one of the disadvantages would be a lack of Okaeris, when they are mostly needed.